Magazine article The Spectator

Simple Minds

Magazine article The Spectator

Simple Minds

Article excerpt

Lions for Lambs 15, Nationwide

This film is described on the posters as 'a powerful and gripping story that digs behind the news, the politics and a nation divided to explore the human consequences of a complicated war'. Should you encounter this poster and should you have a marker pen upon you, you may wish to add graffiti beneath: 'You wish.' Is this vandalism? I would not consider it so. I would consider it only fair that the British cinema-going public is warned in this way. And while you are there, you may even wish to add: 'This is tedious and insulting and barely even a story.' Perhaps it was made more with an American audience in mind but, even so, are they this simple-minded? We all know they are always at least five hours behind, but this much?

Lions for Lambs, as directed by Robert Redford, presents itself as an intelligent and probing film about America abroad and, in particular, the War on Terror, but it is not that and, as for powerful and gripping, well, honestly. You'll have seen arthritic old ladies open jars with more power and grip.

This is not a pro-American film -- it actually promotes becoming engaged with politics as a way of questioning America's habit of stomping all over the rest of the world -- but it's so turgid, and so clumsily and obviously delivered it is impossible to become engaged yourself. A film about engagement that fails utterly to engage? This may, in itself, be some kind of achievement, but who gives a stuff. I may now be even less engaged than I've ever been.

Here's the deal, then. The title, while sounding biblical, actually refers to cowardly leadership sending brave soldier lions into battle even though no competent plans have been put in place, and this is expounded via three separate yet intertwined stories.

First, an eager Senator and President-to-be in Washington (Tom Cruise) reveals a new military initiative in Afghanistan to a sceptical, Left-leaning reporter (Meryl Streep).

Second, we watch that initiative in practice, as a pair of front-line soldiers, Arian and Ernest (Derek Luke and Michael Peña), are left wounded on an Afghan mountain in the snow, with the Taleban closing in.

Meanwhile, a Professor of Political Science, Dr Stephen Malley (Robert Redford, at his most denim-shirted), attempts to motivate an apathetic but promising pupil, Todd Hayes (Andrew Garfield), into remaining engaged in politics. …

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